Ignoring climate change ‘like appeasing Hitler’ Huhne says

By Phil Scullion

Chris Huhne has said that opponents to global agreements to tackle climate change are akin to those who appeased Hitler.

The energy and climate change minister urged governments to redouble efforts to find a successor to the United Nations Kyoto Protocol on emissions during a speech at the Chatham House think tank.

He descibed this as "our Munich moment", referring to the 1938 Munich Agreement in which Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was given land in Czechoslovakia as part of a failed effort to dissuade him from further territorial expansion.

"Climate change is getting less political attention now than it did two years ago. There is a vacuum, and the forces of low ambition are looking to fill it. Giving in to the forces of low ambition would be an act of climate appeasement," he added.

Mr Huhne faces an uphill struggle as global focus has shifted towards self preservation amidst the world economic crisis.

Many countries are not keen to stick their heads above the parapet on climate change, concerned that if they set too challenging emissions targets they will lose their competitive edge and be left behind.

The Kyoto Protocol, the current deal to control greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries is due to expire in 2012.

Whilst Japan, Russia and Canada all advocate a new wider agreement, poorer nations point to the fact richer nations have been emitting greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution and want Kyoto extended before they sign up.

Mr Huhne said: "We cannot wait for every country to become equal, because that would mean waiting for an eternity.

"At some point, we must draw a line and say: this starts now. This starts here.”

The Liberal Democrat warned that there was no time to lose in dealing with the problem if the world was to avoid the potentially disastrous effects of climate change.

"Winston Churchill…once said that 'an appeaser is someone that feeds a crocodile, hoping that it will eat him last'," he added.

The target set by Mr Huhne is for temperatures to be kept within 2 degree Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels.

However this looks unlikely to be achievable as they have already risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius and would go up by another 0.5 of a degree even if all emissions were stopped today.

Mr Huhne has conceded that an agreement is unlikely at this year's Durban conference but is optimistic that one may be reached by 2013.